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tv   Book TV In Depth  CSPAN  November 10, 2012 9:00am-12:00pm EST

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affair broke, she forbade her father to come anywhere near. when bill finally confessed to hillary that he had this relationship with monica lynn scotty, hillary said you have to be the one that goes and tells chelsea. ..
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>> james patterson, who will speak about the literacy initiative he started, and neil barofsky, author of "bailout." for a complete list of authors, visit >> up next, author and lecturer kenneth davis, the acclaimed author of the don't know much about series talks about american history, mythology, geography and more. the new york times best-selling author has written 12 nonfiction books including america's hidden history: a nation rising, and his 2012 release, "don't know much about the american president." >> host: author kenneth davis, where did the don't know much series of books come from? where did that idea come from?th >> guest: well, the idea for the series came from my own little brain, although it didn't start out as aes series, peter. it really started out with the idea that i loved american
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history, i wanted to write about it, i wanted to write about it in a way that shared my enthusiasm for a subject i'dwa loved since i was a small title. a small child. the title came of course you and sam song, which i knew from childhood and so it got stuck in my head. and certainly the success of the book, which caught me by surprise more than anyone else perhaps led to the beginning of the series. she outgrew followed and on and on it went from there. so with no pretensions of writing a series of books, i didn't set out to write this book because simply a loved american history. i couldn't understand why we have these surveys that to 17-year-olds don't know their american history and i wanted to write something i thought would address the problem. >> host: in 1991 he published her one, "don't know much about
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the american presidents" in not book, you write, i like to consider a don't know much about luck the first word on the subject rather than the last. >> guest: that's very true. i see myself as somebody who brings together a pot of interesting information that exists out there. it's not that i'm a groundbreaking researcher who finds the cover story. i think most of these stories exist and unfortunately don't find their way into her textbooks, school books, certainly not of the mass media or hollywood, where most devoted a lot of impressions of history. so i wanted to be a person who asks and answers that don't know much about series in a question-and-answer format. and be able to say what does the declaration declare. but is the mayflower contract? answer in a few short paragraphs or pages, but also where they
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can read more about this. so i see myself in a way as an educator. many people say, did you explain to be a writer? the fact is no, i didn't. if i thought anything in high school and certainly college that i would be to share. so i see my role as just starting a bigger conversation about history and again, sharing mounted vcs and interest for history because it does have so much to do with who we are as a people today, certainly what's going on in the country right now and when you see history, not just as along with the dates of battles and speeches, which unfortunately is how way too many people do see it in this country becomes a lot more interesting and reconnect the history to the headlines come in the past the present and that's the real reason for understanding history in the first place. >> host: in an updated version of your "don't know much about
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the american presidents" book on the right histories about the consequences of our actions large and small and that has never more apparent than in the aftermath of the terror attacks on september 11, 2001. if the terror attacks haven't changed anything else, basically changed many americans appreciation of the past and what it has to do with the price and. what does that mean? >> guest: i like to think that's true and believe it's true. so many people when they had the catastrophe wants to know was there anything else like this in our history and in fact there have been 9/11 moments throughout our history. i point to a few of them in my book. there was a moment in the 19th century called the massacre in the early 1830s. it is a complete obliteration of the small troop of men, army soldiers marching from one place to another in florida, which was really the first site of the men to most americans at that time.
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what that did was set in motion a moment that led to a war against the seminole indians, one of the overlooked moments in our past, which is something also try to do, tell the stories that the textbooks to leave out. most americans have never heard of the longest most costly war in american history up until vietnam, which was the seminole war fought in florida. so that moment was as gripping and astonishing in a way to people about time as 9/11 was to bus. pearl harbor certainly was again. to each generation has had one of these moment that we do forget that we've been through this before. obviously, we are going through right now in a sense. i'm a new yorker. i ensure new york and we are living through this extraordinary moment. i just want to say briefly thank you to the people who are expressing such concern and care
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for new york and this region. we have a long way to go and a lot to do. on my way into the studio this morning, i was remembered thomas jefferson's words when he was inaugurated. we are all federalists. we're all democrats and all republicans and he was speaking to this moment of the research division in the country and this is why history could be so instructive. he was speaking to the moment in 1801 when they just can't do it very, very neat and controversial election that was decided that the house of representatives. he wanted to speak to this idea that we were all americans again and certainly that's the way i wish we would feel after the storm and aftermath of that. so we can learn from these moments americans are very good at coming together. doesn't feel that way right now in the midst of this election, but we also have this extraordinary moment, where we have a crisis and moment of
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division butting heads against each other. i am hopeful we can learn from our history and see that americans to respond to a crisis like this. >> host: as kenneth davis alluded to, the reason he's in new york and both tedious and washington is because of sandy. we had studio issuescome the sore little patch together for this "in depth" with kenneth davis. your most recent "don't know much about the american presidents" is about the american president and you talk about a couple elections. i went to took about 1800 the election of james k. polk versus henry clay. you compare those talking about how vicious they were. is today's election, the current fund we are red, vicious compared to the ones we just talked about? >> guest: no, it's probably more general and person if you look at some of the things said.
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for instance, going back further to 1796, the first contested election when john adams in thomas jefferson, that the teacher is 20 years earlier, who had combined to really bring the declaration of independence into being were now fierce political rivals. they had maintained a friendship of sorts as jefferson served as vice president, with the result affiliate presidents and vice presidents elected back then, something that changed soon after. jefferson and adams had begun to form what were the beginnings of the two political parties, out of the federalists along with alexander hamilton, who is no great friend or ally jihad atoms by the way and jefferson on the other side has been known as the democratic republican. that's why alluded to the fact that jefferson and when he was
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inoculated said we are all democrats and republicans were trying to break the separation. that election had begun with complaints that adequacy monarchist. there were newspapers of the day. the most famous in philadelphia published by benjamin franklin's grand son that called atoms and overweight, corrupt monarchies. he was accused of sending his vice presidential candidate, thomas pickering out to procure young girls. adams had the good humor to reply at least that he didn't know what happened to his two. must've kept all four for himself. jefferson was described as an atheist, in those days the equivalent of palais rabbits left wing terrorists. those who favor the french revolution and what was going on it they said that jefferson was selected, there'd be be blood in the streets and would be taught in all the schools. this was the tenor of the times.
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obviously, back then they did not have 24/7 news stations. they did not have twitter and facebook to feed this frenzy, but it was still the frenzy of the day. 1824, another tremendous example of a vicious, vicious election. john quincy adams versus andrew jackson. andrew jackson was accused of being an adulterer and bigamist because of a cork in the divorce proceedings of his wife, rachel from her first marriage. this something that was circulated around the whole country called the handbill was a pamphlet that was posted throughout the country, showing the coffins. these are the man andrew jackson had supposedly killed, either as a general or ordering the execution. so being caught a bigamist, an adulterer and murderer and having them spread around the country widely wasn't that
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unusual. we like to think the good old days in powdered weeks. politics have always been a nasty business and it's always been a sharp knife business in the very beginning of presidential politics. >> host: is the power of the presidency changed over 44 different president? >> guest: well, i started out in "don't know much about the american presidents" to look at the very, very basic question of why we have a president. 225 years ago we just celebrated the constitution day a few months ago, celebrating the adoption of the constitution as it was written in philadelphia before it was ratified. one of the things these men fight over over that long hot summer in philadelphia, blocked doors and close windows by the way. they did not want anyone knowing what they're talking about. but the thing they thought about most was the power of the president he and the office of
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the president be. these are men who feared more than anything else, the acquisition of tremendous power by one man in charge of an army. they said for the first day, benjamin franklin said he know the first man will be a good one and everyone in the room knew who he was talking about. george washington was sitting right there. it was clear he would be the first president. after that, franklin said will be on the road to an elected monarchy. this is the thing they feared most. they were students of history. they did the history of most republics and had ended badly, often with it the tutor coming along. that was the thing they feared most. one man accruing such power. on the other hand, they knew they needed somebody who could act with what alexander hamilton wrote in one of the federalist papers, vigor. the document energy, dispatch, secrecy, someone who could respond to a crisis at the time when there is a crisis, the constitution -- the articles of
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the federation meant there was a lot of debate, but nobody really to take charge. so they knew they knew they needed both, but they were also very concerned that the separation of power. a think it's fair to say that in the course of the 225 years since then, since that kind of invented or perhaps improvised the presidency is a better word, that there is the nature mentis change in the office. obviously, every president from washington on has taken certain powers for himself. sometimes congress has resisted. the pendulum has swung back and forth if we could go down the list. executive order, signing statements, the war powers. all of these things were fought far beyond what most of the founders would have been vision. but that is the way that democracy and the republic had evolved over these 225 years.
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>> host: kenneth davis, in your career, have you ever been a teacher at all? >> guest: no, i haven't. somebody called the professor on tv recently and i was about to say well, i'm not a professor, i just play one on tv. but the fact is they feel that my book are an extended classroom and i feel very comfortable as a teacher and i suppose if i hadn't discovered that i like to write and make a living from it, which i discovered fairly late in life, but i probably would've ended up in front of a classroom. but that is where i see my role as. i'm not here to necessarily tell everybody was right or who is right over situation is right, but really to serve as more of a stimulant to the conversation as we mentioned earlier. that is what i hope my books to him that his wife try to always write in a very accessible
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style. i know there are many wonderful academic writers out there. some of them to read the textbooks used in schools. unfortunately, they tend to write for each other rather than the rest of us, rather than certainly students in the classroom and that's what i see my role as a second exhibit is a teacher. getting people to explore the questions they might have and may be afraid to ask, pointing them in every direction so that i i think are accurate and useful information and hoping they move on from there. all of my boat from don't know much about history to my new one, "don't know much about the american presidents" contain less of must-read books, others they think are significant and long lists of books i used in terms of the reference and resource in research. >> host: you are watching and listening to booktv on c-span 2. this is our monthly "in depth" program. we invite one author to talk
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about his or her body of work and this month its kenneth davis, author and historian. here is a list of mr. davis' book's beginning in 1984 with the paper backing of america, they don't know much series started in 1991. about history was the first, don't know much about geography in 1992, don't know much about the civil war 1996. don't know much about the bible in 1999, don't know much about the universe in 2001, mythology and 2005, don't know much about anything came out in 2007, don't know much about anything else came out in 2008. america's hidden history in 2009, a nation rising and 2010. and then mr. davis returns with "don't know much about the american presidents," which is a brand-new book out this year. now i want to go to your second
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don't know much, and that is geography. mr. davis, who discovered america? >> guest: well, peter i have to interrupt for just a moment because you last one off the list and it's understandable. i did bring up with me. would like to primary sources. but this is my project about presidents, written when i was in third grade at the william h. holmes school in mount vernon, new york. of course name for washington famous plantation, but that had nothing to do with my interest in presidents. this came out 49 years ago and it's fascinating to me because i found this in my mom's attic, cleaning up and i opened it up. you can see why i became a writer and not an artist and a look at the illustrations. >> host: if you could hold it up again? >> guest: absolutely, it would be my pleasure. one can see why i am a writer and not an illustrator. i opened it up in the very first
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page of the inside page says, did you know quite so here i was at nine years of age asking questions and answering them about presidents. so obviously been interested in the stuff for a very, very long time. just to briefly explain that, i think that's my fascination with history going back more than 50 years now really had to do with the fact, not that i was born in mount vernon, a place named for washington plantation, but the fact i was very fortunate. my parents thought a good idea for summer vacation was to throw us in a car with an old army surplus tent and sleeping back at what places like valley forge and gettysburg and fort conder wrote a in upstate new york. so i would have the sense that history happens in real places. it not just in the spirit not long lists of dates and battles and legislation and court decisions that we remember for
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the sats or the ap exam and forget a week later. that is the sense i always had about the subject. the other thing i keep on my desk is this. all just hold this up as well. this is a wooden toy gun that i got asked in a souvenir of that trip to gettysburg also in 1963 and it was of course the centennial of the battle that year. and i remember being in that field as a 9-year-old and having the sense that something extraordinary had happened in this place, even though i didn't quite understand the issues and perhaps had a somewhat romantic notion of what war was all about back then. i knew that something happened and i was struck watching c-span recently by something a wonderful historian named howard coffin mentioned. he said joshua chamberlain, one of the heroes of gettysburg used
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the phrase something abides and that really run home with me because i had this experience as a 9-year-old and from the something did abide in that place. so that is why i have this passion about the subject for so long and i feel it is so important. so when you ask me about geography and history, obviously they go together in my mind. one cannot understand history without understanding geography, even in an age of google maps. but if you don't understand the connection between places and why things happen, it's as basic as that. so when i finished the don't know much about history and it came out and have this wonderful and surprising success, it occurred to me that the thing americans don't know much about even worse than history perhaps is geography and this is at a time when they were telling us this teutons couldn't point to a
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map in favor of the atlantic ocean was. americans have always had difficulty understanding america's place in connection to the rest of the world and even american geography. also, something i couldn't understand because i'm the same clerkships i was talking about promising vacations, i sit in the backseat with imap on my lap and i remember very clearly i would trace the exact route of where we went. i don't know why that is, but that's where my inclination was. so it is always interested in the subject and always felt that the threads that connect history to geography is something that needs to be explored. so that's why he moved on to that subject. each of my books i'd have to say in this series has come back in the same way. after he went from history to geography, i talked about important battles and realize the civil war was still the most important event in our history,
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the most mythologized in the most misunderstood. so i went back to that. reading about the civil war, i discovered it was the first time, certainly in american history and perhaps all of history, that people use the bible to determine their views on an issue, a political issue and that was slavery course. that led me to think about the bible, a subject i've been interested in from childhood. so i wanted to again go back to the subjects that have so much in act on our lives today and find the threads that connected between them. so who did discover america? wow, i wrote that book around the time of the 500th anniversary of columbus' trip, so it certainly discusses columbus and his role in the discovery of america. you can't discover a place where perhaps as many as a hundred people already live. fun story about columbus and
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geography affect him though. one of the things i love to do is to research, to go in the library and look for the books because it's always the unexpected discovery, to reach a moment i love so much. i remember going to find a book about columbus, a biography. three books down on the same shelf with christopher columbus. nobody told junior high school that christopher columbus kept a log book of his four voyages and wrote letters about the voyages. so i pulled that out, just an unexpected discovery, and started to read it. i was enthralled. he was columbus describing his voyages, describing his discoveries in his own words. of course they are his words, so we have to remember people write about themselves with the degree of prejudice. it was one thing more than
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anything else caught me from the lawbooks of columbus. in his third voyage she lives off the coast of south america. the cell that is off the coast of carolina. he's a great reverberation into the ocean. columbus right in his log that this is one of the rivers mentioned in the book of genesis. if you read that come you must realize that columbus thought he'd found the garden at eton, one of the four rivers mentioned in the book of genesis. that is rather extraordinary to me, the idea of columbus thought he found the garden of eden, which at that time was in the late 1490s was understandable. they thought it was a real place and maybe off the coast of china somewhere. columbus thought, that's unusual. columbus then goes on to write that this gate made me realize that the water is coming from a very high place and i began to
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think that the world is not spherical, the pear-shaped. i stopped right there and i said, wait a minute, they told us that columbus proved the world is round and here he is in his own words say in the is pear-shaped, he then goes onto say, this high point on the earth, where the water comes down is like a woman's, highest and closest to heaven. they didn't tell me that in seventh grade. i'm sure i would've taken notes. but perhaps when you read history or geography and you get it in the sense of the people who've lived through it and this is one of the thing i do in my book is to include these historic voices, american voices, voices of geography, races of the president. it becomes alive, human can a meaningful. it's not just that long list of speeches. indeed, columbus started an era of discovery and exploration
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that transformed the whole world. it's difficult to say he discovered a world for there is also a least a hundred million. >> host: you been listening to rother kenneth davis. he's our author on "in depth" on booktv on c-span 2. 202-58-5389 s-sierra if you live in the eastern central time zone. 585-3891 for those in the muppets pacific time zones. you can also contact us via social media. you can send a tweet. a total handle is@booktv. go to and you'll see kenneth davis' picture at the top of the screen and you'll post a comment and we'll get to those as quickly as possible. you can also of course send us an e-mail at
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kenneth davis, two american families donate car trips to historic places you are referring to? >> guest: just, they do. i've really been pleased to learn over the years and i hear from so many people who say we read your book were on the family car trip to gettysburg and listen to it on tape. so that it's been a wonderful thing for me to hear as a writer, the idea people use my book because the only way i'd think that we rarely get to understand history is if we have a conversation out of around the dinner table. it's one of the reasons i started pretty children books 10 years ago to do with my adult books and i've heard from parents to see the kids i taught that way. i read the adults first monday with the kids version.
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we have to have this conversation around the dinner table about history and certainly during an election like this is the perfect time to do it. i've always thought when people say to me, how do i get my kids interested in history and teachers asked me as well. i speak to a great many teachers in my work and they often say, how to get kids were interested in history? the answer is simple as far as i'm concerned, at least one of the answers or field trips, road trips. i know people think that, hear that and think brown bags and yellow buses, but there is nothing that replaces the sensation of being in an historic place come as the net come the feeling feeling, touching it, sometimes even smelling it. that is what provides us the real sons is something that happened to real people. forgive me, i keep losing my sib here. >> host: we will let you get that adjusted and i want to read
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this quote from your don't know much about mythology book. you write, one of the saddest things i witnessed in the series, especially when i visit schools is that the innate and insatiable curiosity of children have about the world gets absolutely killed by the tedium of score. i also remember so well how myths save one little boy. >> guest: true story. again, i like to tell true stories. i remember being a child sitting in schools, watching the clock upon the wall. i would watch the clock ticked towards 3:00 when we get released and i remember the only time i thought -- not the only time come to certainly one of the time i felt some sense of real excitement was when our teacher would stop at the end of the day and she would read from the odyssey, a text version, not the poetry version. this was in elementary school.
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and for this he amended that she would read, i was lifted away, taken away. i was no longer battling fractions in grammar. i was on that boat with ulysses as he makes his way through the fees over that long. .. >> guest: certainly are great
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storytellers. now, we can tell true stories,,e we don't have to make them up. obviously, myths were created as sacred stories to explain thet world around people to peoplee who didn't understand the world. in a scientific way. world. in a scientific way. but it is remarkable to see how so many of these stories that enthralled me as a child keep getting recycled and reused and reinvented the and put in new costumes. you know, there is a great story about a boy whose parents are either gone or he is orphaned or his parents disappear or his birth is mysterious, but he learns that he has great powers. eventually he lens to fly. he has to to set out to correct the world and fight evil. and you can call that hercules or you can call with moses or you can call it superman or harry potter or lukes cal locker these are -- this is a story, and iconic titled, if you will,
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that we keep recycling. that has been a tremendous source of fascination to me. i do see that sense of tedium going back to your first point when i am in schools. one of the things that i have really enjoyed in the past few years is making many more school visits, particularly in the last year-and-a-half, visiting some of the great schools around the country the escape. it's wonderful. i go into rural alabama or north dakota were pennsylvania. inner-city brooklyn. i am able to talk to kids about what is on their minds. what i find and the saddest thing i see is the tremendous excitement, enthusiasm, curiously forestry from so many of these kids trying to keep alive, we get so far down in the testing and the standardized
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testing that we some times even kill that sense of curiosity. >> guest: first call comes from mel hall, pennsylvania. lawrence, you're on the air. please go ahead. lawrence are you with us? and we are going to move on to jeffrey in georgia. please go ahead with your question or comment for kenneth davis. >> caller: yes. i was calling, talking about the american history book. i had read it. i am a college student. and one of the things that i have noticed in my practice, going to school, the kids are just not excited about history. and i was calling, what do you think it will take for kids to be more excited about history when it is so fascinating. but like you said, standardized testing is just, it takes control over the kids wanted to learn. >> guest: it is really important and very, very good
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question. thank you for calling. again, i have seen what is going on in schools around the country in the past year-and-a-half, certainly the past ten years of my -- as i visited more schools. i have to say, i really do see this sense contrary to what might be some of your impressions that kids are really interested in history, especially in fifth and sixth grade. they want to show what they know, prove what they know. they read it. teachers are excited about teaching it to them. and between hormones and standardized testing kicking in, and to integrate some of that passion and ardor for history starts to disappear. we also have to make sure that we are teaching kids why this does matter, and that is one that i here all the time. where it is the stuff that happened 50 years ago or 150 years ago have to do with me? and i think that one of the -- i talked about calling places and
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feeling history, and that is certainly part of it. the other part is that we have to remember that talking about history, always talking about stories, always talking about what real people do. we did it overwhelm sometimes my talking about what the president's two and with the kings and the generals do. that history is very often much more about what the average person does which is certainly something i tried to do in don't know much about history, addressed the people who were left out of my schoolbooks, women, african-americans, native americans were certainly not in the textbooks i grew up in or with in the early 1960's and 70's. so stories, real places, making the connections between what happened 50 years ago and today. obviously we are in the midst of an election. there are so many extraordinary connections i think between what happened as they created the presidency and some of the
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extraordinary braces in the past that apply to today. i was reading the other day -- pre-reading the story of 1936, an extraordinary election, franklin d. roosevelt running after his first term, a country in the midst of the depression. people still, really reeling from the impact of the depression. the new deal programs he had put in were already controversial. they had not truly alleviated the worst of the unemployment yet. it was up around 17%. where talking about unemployment at 8%. it was 17% and. probably that is a mistaken estimate. roosevelt talked about the fact that organized money was against him. and he said, they hated him. he said, i welcome their hatred. and it is so interesting to me to be able to say to kids, the thing that we are fighting about today in this election we fought
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about in 1936, and if you go back even farther you can find more examples. 1912, theodore roosevelt talked about the money in elections. so we have been having this same argument over and over and over again. mythology tells the same story and we have a lot of the same fights in american history. i think when you put it in the context in the character of some of these really extraordinary people who were behind the stories, that is what makes it interesting and compelling to kids. >> host: in the 1998, don't know much about the bible came out. kendis david -- kenneth davis writes underlying the don't know much about series is the notion that school does not end when we leave the classroom. i believe it is crucial for people to question the easy assumptions they grew up with about religion, history, or afford verses the chevy, and if you are unable to get into the phone lines because they're all
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full right now, you can contact us via social media. facebook, twitter, or e-mail are all available. we will put the screen upon the -- up for you. if you want to contact us that like go-ahead. we will take this next call from j.b. in toledo, ohio. hello. >> hello, and thank you for taking my call. mr. davis, i have two distinct questions. one, how dare you derive that columbus found hundreds of millions of inhabitants in the new world? two, when columbus -- in columbus logic indicates that he saw three mermaids at one point in his journeys. have you located that in your reading? >> guest: for the first question, there is a great, wide disparity in the estimates, obviously, of how many -- when i
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say who columbus discovered, obviously on talking about who was on the to entire continents when he arrived in the new world. columbus certainly never saw all those people. i did not mean to suggest that. but that is the range of ethnical from low-end. this has increased greatly over the past few years, how many people occupied these two continents in 1492 when columbus arrived. the question of the mermaids, this is, of course, one that has been around for a great many years. when people saw things like manatee's or dolphins and, again, sometimes sailors to long it's the and not seeing perfectly and letting the imagination filter into this, that is where columbus may have come up with the mermaid idea. it reminds me, for instance, it's something i also discuss in don't know much about geography.
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the first spanish explorers of what became known as the amazon river saw a tribe the people who were expert archers and had very long hair, and he presumed that these were the so-called amazon is of greek mythology, hints that the river gets its name. so imagination and what we bring to the things that we are discovering certainly can impact our impressions and what then becomes part of the language. >> host: anything about our raise? >> guest: again, i think specifically i don't know if columbus sought manatee's or dolphins, but certainly something natural would have given many, many mariners, hundreds if not thousands of years to come up stories of seeing fantastical creatures. and that is, again, where the imagination kicks in.
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>> host: i apologize. did the word mermaid ever appear in columbus as large? >> guest: i'm going to defer to the caller. if he said that -- i don't have a recollection of mermaids, but it would be entirely possible. it's the one james, san jose california, you're on with author kenneth davis. >> caller: good morning, mr. davis. mr. davis, you mentioned columbus discovering the new world, but i read that the vikings were it the first on the east coast. and before them came a navigator from ireland. do you have any historical the information on these two? >> guest: short. i address both of those questions in don't know much about geography. one is much more easily incident the other because certainly the vikings were here, when i say here, in north america close of
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500 years before columbus arrived. the site of the viking village that they left behind has been excavated. it is now a unesco world heritage site up in newfoundland so that evidence is quite clear and overwhelming. the part of the story that connects to columbus, however, was always the idea that, perhaps, there was some way that columbus knew about the vikings having sailed here. there was even a map that later proved to be a fraud that was said to be something columbus had. there is no evidence to suggest that columbus knew about the vikings or their route to north america, and he certainly came an entirely different way. certainly did not follow the viking course. the irish cause, as they're called, is much more in the realm of legend. there is no evidence to justify
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that it really does fit more into the realm of the old wives' tale. >> host: know, in your most recent don't know much about the american president, 600 pages or so, you do craze to each of the presidents. are those your assessments? >> guest: they are my assessments after what i did was study the fuse of presidents by historians and academics from the very first one back in the 1960's up until very recently with such things as the "wall street journal" and c-span a very excellent surveys of presidential scholars. and so what i tried to do was map how those presidents had been viewed throughout history, bring to bear some of my own criteria, which includes the idea that presidents have to be judged, in part, on how they
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responded to what was going on in the country around the. so, for instance, presidents who faced great crises, we have to judge them, perhaps, the differently than presidents who had -- were in charge during times of relative peace and prosperity which is why we put abraham lincoln and franklin d. roosevelt at the top of most historical less and certainly i put them there as well. wh fact, i give for presidents ..umerically. you know, how do you distinguish between 26 and 27? but really, try and grouped them more in the way we would group the class. i don't use the bell curve or anything like that, but certainly looking at the 43 men who would become president, i deem that four of them are what i call a-plus presidents, and another six or seven would be a president's command and then down to of several paths and a
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few incomplete, mostly presidents to did not serve a s who did not serve a full term because of the assassination or debt or innocence of barack obama did not feel it was fair at the time i wrote the book to judge him over the long course than a full term. >> host: to move your and "don't know much about history: everything you need to know about american history but never learned". is it fair to say george washington, maybe we don't learn the full story about george washington? >> we absolutely don't learn the full story about george washington and one of the reasons nation" and "a nation rising: untold tales of flawed founders, fallen heroes, and forgotten fighters from america's hidden history" is to tell those stories that schoolbooks leave out particular about george washington. most americans unfortunately still have feet cherry tree story in mind when they think of
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young washington. the story completely manufactured by adman who didn't know washington and made these stories up, a reader for children couched morality tale in terms of washington's life so the cherry tree story we can dismiss but unfortunately every president's day we will see the actors come out with an ax on their shoulder to job down the prices on cars. that stereotype of washington gets perpetuated. most people never hear the story of a 16-year-old washington, a true story from his own riding of going out into the virginia wilderness when he is a teenager with some men who were very important and his wife, his first surveying expedition if you will and he writes about laying down next to a fire one night, his first night in the woods and the first undresses, stripped down and weighs on some mattresses and wakes up being
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eaten alive by bedbugs, put his clothes on and decides to sleep next to the 5-year like the other more veteran men with him, that is a story that is a lot more interesting and constructive about washington then phony stories about cherry trees but more important, most americans never hear the story of washington and his first real role as a military leader, 22 years old, and tested, leads a group of virginia militia men out into what was then called the ohio wilderness not far from what is now pittsburgh. his men including a group of native american allies were with him, attack a french units, massacre them, washington was unable to stop the massacre and they got a hasty retreat, the french army followed washington in revenge, attempting to track the virginians down. washington throws together a small rectangular fort called
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fort necessity and on july 4th, ironically, 22 years before 1776, he find the paper that is a surrender at fort necessity and in that paper the terms of the surrender, first and only time he ever surrendered in his career include sort of an admission of having murdered a french diplomat, that incident eventually leads to an sparks the seven years war known in america as the french and indian war. it is an episode most americans have never heard of. wonderful episode in terms of talking about the shaping of the young washington. he sees war at its absolute worst, the death during the french and indian war and the politics of it and that's those shaped him and so spoke to what he experienced when he was in
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command of the revolution that is too bad we don't learn more about it and it is one of those chapters "america's hidden history: untold tales of the first pilgrims, fighting women, and forgotten founders who shaped a nation" are try to tell in this book. >> host: eric, please go ahead with your question or comment for kenneth davis. >> the question is to "don't know much about the civil war: everything you need to know about america's greatest conflict but never learned". you mention how the southern states were broken down into ten district in each district assigned a general and essentially the dictator of the area and the district was reported to the union. my question is how did their decisions, how did they affect presidential politics of the time and were any of them rather poignant? >> that is a very good question. one of those areas we don't spend a lot of time and attention on in school. what you're talking about is the era known as reconstruction. abraham lincoln had been
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assassinated. his replacement was andrew johnson and this was an issue that affected johnson and a couple of his successors most significantly. congress at that time was mostly dominated by the so-called radical republicans. they had a very specific idea for how state should be readmitted to the union and the caller is absolutely correct, these were military districts and each state could only return to the union in full and be accorded their rights if they met certain obligations including the obligation to ratify the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments so that was part of the deal, so to speak. johnson, andrew johnson was very reluctant to do some of these things, he sought--although he had been named by abraham
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lincoln as his vice president and hoped to create unity of feeling in the country at the time, andrew johnson was a southern democrat, one of the few southern democrats who remained loyal to the union and lincoln had brought him in in the hopes of shoring up support among democrats who were still loyal to the union but andrew johnson and mike congress at the time did not see things in the same light and this is the reason, a very political reason andrew johnson is ultimately impeached but acquitted in the senate over separate issue entirely, the conduct of his dealings with the secretary of war at the time. the politics of the time were very powerful but gradually the states are brought back into the union and only with the election
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of 1876, sometimes we all forget our dates, this reconstruction period falls apart when there's a contested election with rutherford b. hayes in which there were contested electoral in several states and the committee that was assigned to determine who gets those collectors gave them to hayes, hayes basically said he would withdraw the federal troops, bringing to end the period of federal reconstruction and aren't reconstruction in southern states. >> host: kenneth davis, patricia comments on facebook you are so much fun to listen to. i read greek and norse mythology when i was a kid in the 50s and it led to so much more. are those logs of christopher columbus available to the general public? never heard that they existed.
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>> guest: they are available and in the aftermath of the anniversary many more versions are available. i know at least two trade books that reproduce columbus's logs and there have also been a number of more recent biographies of columbus that address this whole period. >> guest: next call -- >> host: next call from margie. >> caller: good to be here and listen to kenneth davis. i have bought my first book in an airport in nashville, 1994 on my way to santiago, chile. i loved geography as a child and i just want -- i have five of his books since then and i want to thank you totally for writing these wonderful books. always loved learning. i am an elderly lady now but i
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still want to always learn. thank you, thank you mr. davis. >> i don't know if you can see the blushing here but it is not visibly blushing but audibly blushing the thank you very much. i want to speak to the last comment she made about being an older person and learning. one of the things i have written about many times and feel strongly about is this idea that we go through high school and/or college and that is it. that is our learning. i believe in lifelong learning to double the we learn for the rest of our lives and you are seeing this play out in the technology age we're in with the explosion of online courses. people are hungry to learn. people are hungry to improve their knowledge and not just for getting ahead careerwise but to understand the things so many of
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us feel we missed out in high school because maybe they didn't spend enough time on it or they have a lousy teacher. i speak to a great many really dedicated teachers especially in the social studies area. i am not dumping on teachers. i believe we ask them to delay next to impossible job and don't give them a very good tools to do it but on the other hand i have heard from too many people who got turned off by that one bad teacher whether it is history or biology or any subject and now they are rediscovering it. that is one of the real audiences i have always tried to speak to. people who feel we are in a constant process of learning, lifelong learning and learning should go on forever. >> host: using don't know much about the civil war as a guide how do you organize your books?
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>> guest: organizing chronological order as everything you need to know about american history but never learned" and "don't know much about the american presidents". easy to go from the starting point a to be. the books that are specifically historically historic in nature, history, civil war and the american presidents are very much chronological. the other books are a little bit more -- i don't know -- quirky i suppose. how do start talking about geography? in that sense i did start by talking about the history of the idea of geography. how do we know what we know about the world, who started asking these questions. always astonishing to me to look back at how the ancient people made these very extraordinary discoveries. i talk about the librarian in
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alexandria, egypt, eratosthenes. of i'm not mangling his name too badly who roughly measured the world without much more than a calendar and the sun and a big stick in the ground. when you see that extraordinary sense of developing knowledge about the national -- natural world that comes out your curiosity that is what i'm talking about what i talk about kids's natural security of a city and how we have to keep telling these stories to fire up their imagination and their creativity. >> guest: history classes focus almost exclusively on the underrepresented groups mentioned. are we too for course been too much, and magellan and columbus and so on? >> that is a good question and it has been somewhat addressed,
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some people think that it has one too far. for instance there was some concern a few years ago that their history stand is coming that the dimension robert e. lee and on the other hand the texas textbooks have been a subject of controversy because they spend more time talking about jefferson davis and thomas jefferson. there's always a swing and a shift and we should mention when we're talking about school books specifically that these are often determined in different states and states have rules about what textbooks should and could say and i am not a textbook writer and not a textbook critics specifically. but there is a problem, i grew up with books that didn't include any of the non-white european models so certainly
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when i was writing "don't know much about history: everything you need to know about american history but never learned" that was looking at the underrepresentation. in recent years there has been a sense that american history hasn't included the stories of the asians and the hispanic americans who have come to the country. one of the things i started to do when i wrote one of my more recent books untold tales of the first pilgrims, fighting women, and forgotten founders who shaped a nation". i was trying to get more of a history of the spanish america, talking about columbus in 1492 but certainly we know about cortez in mexico but what about the spanish in what became the united states of america and this is where i discovered what i thought was an extraordinary story that had never been told, certainly not to me, the story of the real first pilgrims in america. they were not english men sales to massachusetts in december on the mayflower. there were french, they sailed to florida, they had the good
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sense to go to florida in june as opposed to massachusetts in december and they sailed 50 years before the mayflower sailed. they were french huguenots who were escaping the same strife and persecution in france that the pilgrims would try to escape years later but they're nowhere mentioned in any of my childhood history books. they found a colony known as fort caroline of of what is now jacksonville, floridian and a year later, they were not thriving but surviving and planning to stay and that is when spanish king sent and admiral over because he was to be rid of these protestant pirates essentially who were camped out on florida. that is why st. augustine was founded. it is not really a story that st. augustine tells a great deal about when you are there but if you drive 17 miles south of st.
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augustine will find another national historic site called tons this, a word for scotty is because these french protestants were slaughtered by the spanish founded st. augustine. why with a slotted? partly because they were french but mostly because they were protestants. the first encounter between europeans and what became the united states of america ended up in a religious blood breath. what story is more import into our history today than that story but was left out of our school books. settling my schoolbooks and worse, i went to a historic site in florida around the time i was doing this research and it was a recreated spanish mission village, very wonderful in all respects, there were people in. dress but they had a chronology on the wall of the museum and it said in such and such a year the
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french were banished from florida. i had to go and seek out the administrator, officer of the library and say to them what you mean they were banished? they were murdered. she said we are not allowed to say that here. so that is why history get sanitized, we get the bad time version of the story, as if we have to protect children from the idea that throughout history people have killed each other, sometimes over religion. that is sometimes the things we as historians are against. >> host: next call from fort lauderdale, fla.. hi, scott. >> caller: hi, how are you doing? mr. davis, thank you very much, you have opened up a whole world today. i see at least six books i have to run out and get. i wanted to bring up one observation in you telling your
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own story about growing up and your family taking these trips that you found very interesting, and lightning and inspiring, in your first for history. a very similar upbringing in that my family came from the new york metropolitan area and my dad would throw us in the car on a weekends and we would go to all the same places and this had the same effect on me as well as the retelling of his world war ii adventures and reading every book about world war ii and the air force and putting up a map of the world in front of my desk when i was 7 years old and found myself daydreaming and i knew every capital and population of every city in the world and my
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question, my comment is i find what is lacking today in a lot of college age students and young adults, this lack of history knowledge or lack of interest even, teachers play a big part in it but i believe a lot of that start has to come from the home. i don't know in your case if it came from both parents or more your father than your mother. in my case it was more my father, but it opens up the world to me that has been my passion for the rest of my life, whether it be american history, world history, history of religion, everything. to talk to college students today, we have an important election coming up, and how we got to where we are, by not knowing the history that came
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before seems to me such a tragedy and leaves them not well done to make any informed decision for choices. i just wanted to touch on the fact that a lot of that spark has to come from the home and parents have shared their own interests. i've learned more at the dinner table growing up that i did in all the past history. it is a pleasure to see you and here you and i know now after what happened, thank you very much for listening and i will keep listening to you. >> guest: thank you for that call. there's a lot to digest and if chew on but the first thing i am going to say, you used the word
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tragic and that is right. ignorance of history is not fully sad but dangerous. when history becomes coopted for instance by people who use it for their own very specific purposes and they miss you that it is dangerous. that leads to demagoguery, i believe. learning history inoculate some against people telling us things that are not true and that is a very important idea. the second point is you are absolutely right that parents have to be the motivating force. teachers are great. i love teachers, i work with the mall time. i have been in the past year and a half going into classrooms around the country, through skype sessions are visiting in person and i have to tell you there are so many truly passionate and dedicated teachers who want to do exactly what you are saying and coleus
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this is preaching to the choir and maybe saying the obvious, but it works best when parents and teachers are working together and no teacher will do you there's anything greater than having interested parents who want to come in and talk about how to keep their kids occupied and volunteering in the classroom is something i did when my children were growing up. if we are going to be serious and this is not a program about education and education reform and i am not of the education reform movement in any respect. i want good education for every one and 5 will take whatever it takes to get there. but it seems to me that if we are truly concerned about education in this country, we better pay more than lip service and we certainly better pay attention to our teachers. they get dumped on all the time. they are easy whipping boys for
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politicians but teachers that i know, the vast majority are dedicated servants who want their children and servants to do well, to be excited, to learn, to move forward and the best solution to that problem is exactly what the caller said, having parents and kids involved, making our home learning environment. the best thing to do is turn off the tv and disconnect the x box and get outside. we talked about field trips. i really believe that. is so boring to go to these old historic houses. one more comment along those lines, so many museums historic houses, presidential sites and then listened to a great many of them in the book about the american president have come so far from where they were ten years ago the lone 50 years ago,
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much more interactive, have more bells and whistles, much more family friendly. they're not your grandfather's museums. you can't go to my the leader or mount vernon or monticello and not get the sense that they are trying to expand the story they are telling and involve families and kids. that is why i think that is a wonderful part of a learning experience and when you do it together it makes it more fun. fun is a good thing and learning is not meant to be a four letter word. fun is not a four letter word. >> host: if you would like to contact kenneth davis on social media here is the addresses including our twitter handle@booktv. if you like a son facebook, you can make a comment there as well or send an e-mail to kenneth davis at the phone numbers
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202-585-3890-585-39 one if you live in the mountain and pacific time zones. lawrence in pennsylvania, you are on with kenneth davis. >> >> caller: i am a retired professor, 74 years old. do you hear me? >> guest: i hear you fine. >> caller: i got cut off before. that is why i am asking. concerning the hidden history of america, can you talk about hemp as an industrial products, the declaration of independence and the constitution were written on hemp paper? >> guest: i have heard this discussion many times and it is one that has been explored and george washington has often been mentioned as a leading proponent of growing hemp, and it became a
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more controversial agricultural product in past times but it certainly did have a small but interesting role in the past, but i am not sure what beyond that i could add. >> host: i meant to ask you after the previous caller, what did your parents do? >> interesting question. i am very much a product, very blue-collar parents. my father was a truck driver. my fault with the world war ii veteran who served in north africana and italy, drove trucks through those two war zones and when he came home became a truckdriver. he was in some ways i look back at this interestingly, a victim of progress. he used to drive trucks that deliver bread and i before there
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were supermarkets and along comes a anti and he drove a truck and i often went out with him on spring vacations when i had to occupy myself delivering diapers which means picking up the other end of the story as well. that falls victim to pampers and huggies. technologies a double-edged sword as we well know. innovation is a double-edged sword. my father was a hard-working truckdriver. my mother was a stay at home mom in the daytime, took care of -- i live in a house with my extended family. she took care of my grandmother who was handicapped in a wheelchair and at night went to work at an office in town for sears roebuck. very much a product of blue-collar parents and i
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consider myself in essence how each generation can do a little better. neither of my parents was college-educated and each successive generation in america until now we are told has always done better than the first. they always prized reading more than any thing and one of the things i talk about so often when i asked is the importance of the library in american democracy, in american society and libraries, like schools are often first to feel the axe of the budget cutter. i grew up in mount vernon as i said, had a wonderful, beautiful library, one of those andrew carnegie libraries. was an absolute temple to reading, research, learning and i remember the day very clearly of getting my adult reading card, library cards so you could go from the downstairs
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children's room up this grand marble stairway, it really felt like a greek temple to the adult room which was very magnificent, a true library in the elegant old sense of the word and i remember very clearly being around a teenager and getting books from that library that start to transform and change my views of the world around me, the jungle by upton sinclair is a good example. i remember reading that in the summer of 1968, that fateful year for american history when i was 14 years old and beginning to alter my views of the world, was not as simple as many of us thought in nearly 60s. library, the public library in particular was something -- we did not have a bookstore, people don't realize this, they didn't used to be a bookstore in every corner and they didn't use to
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the amazon when there was no internet so the public library was a lifeline to me. we had the bookmobile driving around the neighborhood. we would go once a week or twice a week and get books. those experiences not only made me a reader but helped make me a writer. the public library is not a luxury. it is a necessity. a necessity certainly in the new digital divide age, when people are getting their computer access at a public library terminal as opposed to having a personal computer and there are great many people who do not have that access and depend on the public library. that is my sermon about the importance of the library and a functioning democracy. >> host: next call for kenneth davis is from alan in florida. >> caller: can you hear me ok? very nice to talk to you. let me just say i read a couple
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of your books and i think it is great. i am totally -- i noticed you and your publisher have worked to make a lot of your books available in audio which i think is great. talking about what you said before, the need to understand why history is relevant. i wondered what you thought about something, h w brands appeared on this network a lot, if you look back at the time of the civil war and the time now, we're very geographically divided in terms of one part of the country being represented by one party and one represented by another. i think you talk about that and don't know much about the civil war -- more industrialized society and the south being more
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rural and agricultural. as we see people now start to move to places where they are more politically comfortable, it is a time similar to the civil war in that when you have that and you have people living in places where they are comfortable, politicians need to cater to the extremists of their parties and it is harder to build consensus. i am a democrat, highly cater to democrats and 5 republican i only cater to republicans. it is harder to build consensus and to compromise and get things done. when you are talking about the debt or education or other things. i will hang up and take my answer off the air. >> thank you for that call. not sure what the specific question was but very interesting piece.
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i will reference -- published in the new york times and the last weekend days called exactly this, the geography of red state versus. states, a blog in the new york times, i wish i could give you the exact title. i did posted on my facebook page and it did talk about this, how the country has been increasingly solidified into these two blocks and we can see one is on the east coast, west coast and the great middle is very different with some pockets here and about. is a fascinating piece the explains exactly that. the great north/south divided largely disappeared. so much of that has changed of course because of the enormous movement of people out of the traditional northeast into the sun belt states but this speaks also to something we haven't touched on at all yet in terms
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of the presidency and the election and that is the dreaded alert for college. those words make strong men's in these go week. just the sound of them. the electoral college because of the way it is constituted and the way it does impact our politics and elections really does, i think, exacerbate some of these regional differences so that we get people directing a certain amount of attention, whether it is campaigning or advertising, on these dates and that is part of the reason i think we see an end to the electoral college we might see the breakdown of some of these very stark regional differences. that being said i don't see any end to the electoral college any time soon. we haven't discussed this at all and i don't know if you want to
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get into it but obviously we are all looking at this ticker of people projecting how many votes from which state here and there and i can tell you when i go into schools there's no question that the alleged durrell college is the question almost every student group that i speak to wants to know about first. why do we have this thing? i don't understand it. why can't we just elect the president? is a question many americans share. >> host: kenneth davis is our guest. beginning in 1984, two bit culture:the unmaking of america. the duck then much about..." series, conflict but never learned," "don't know much about the bible: everything you need to know about the good book but never learned," don't know much about the
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about the universe, about the universe, "don't know much about mythology: everything you need to know about the greatest stories in human history but never learned," "don't know much about anything: everything you need to know about people, places, events and more!" and more!" "america's hidden history: untold tales of the first pilgrims, fighting women, and forgotten founders who shaped a nation" and a nation rising and then the american presidents. harper was your publisher for a long time. >> that is correct. that is just the vagaries of the publishing business. my editor of four of my earlier books which were at the smithsonian imprint which was published by harper collins, that editors left and went to hyperion, so i essentially followed a long. >> host: damian tweets and how would you describe your writing
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process? >> guest: writing is easy. i sit down and open up a vain. my process as i approach a new book from start to finish is a period of intense research where i formulate the overall picture of the book i am going to present and obviously when we had talking about a book like "don't know much about the american presidents" is fairly circumscribed, i will talk about the office and go through each of the 43 men who held the office and conclude with a section about where we are going from here, what we do with the presidents specifically and the process is driven by the questions the i have and many people have and sometimes those questions lead to more questions which is the best thing, curiosity should keep generating
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and engendering more curiosity suspended good amount of time generally first on a research, then formulating and bringing together a big picture scenario of what the book will include and as i go through that process and then start to actually write it i often go down little side paths. it is those side paths that came out of "don't know much about history: everything you need to know about american history but never learned" that "america's hidden history: untold tales of the first pilgrims, fighting women, and forgotten founders who shaped a nation" which is outside of the series, really an outgrowth of my feeling that the stories i wanted to tell where bigger and needed to be expanded on and open up and read a little more. that is a process that is pretty linear, straightforward. i have a lot of books piled up on my floor as i am doing this to my wife's chagrin. i could be working on something
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and have five or six books open to pages and going back and forth. i do most of my research and reference from secondary sources, to be very clear. although because of the internet primary sources are more available now especially this book about the american president. you can access every presidential paper, every presidential library, every presidential archived in a way that very few researchers could have before a few years ago so that has been a real bonanza to me as a historian as a researcher. i love research. it is like a mystery story waiting to unfold. as i said earlier in talking about columbus it is those unexpected discoveries, finding the thing i wasn't looking for that often intrigues me. >> host: karen in massachusetts, you are on booktv on c-span2
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with kenneth davis. >> caller: good afternoon and thank you for c-span. i have been away from booktv for too long. mr. davis, we could talk for hours. i am similar to the lady who said she was an elderly lady and i am similar to the fellow from fort lauderdale who truly believes that history should be at the dinner table, discussed with your parents. it is the most vital place to learn it and it is not hard, it is the joy . i live in a home founded by mrs. bradstreet flaw and she was born 400 years ago this year. i would like to ask two things. if you would ever consider doing
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a don't know much about poetry. and bad street was the first published in english poet. i say english because there might have been spanish poetry published before her but hers was in 1650, she lived here in andover. we lost our name when we gave it away to the southern part of our town in 1855. my second question, i have an idea for doing what you just mentioned as far as having a conversation about history. i would like to have 4 is put together that would take people through one town if it is very heavily history place for several towns that are adjacent to each other. i will be studying here next spring in six towns in
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massachusetts and if you google valley of the poets you will read all about that. i wondered if you thought that was a very good idea or not, to enjoy having a conversation with many different people who learn a lot. i believe we will learn some much. >> host: thank you for the call. >> guest: i actually did write a book of sorts "don't know much about literature: what you need to know but never learned about great books and authors". is one of my fun books that i did on the side with my capable, smart daughter who is a graduate of harvard in history and literature and those two things in my mind of always gone together so i am pleased that is the degree she pursued and we didn't write a book together that is a kind of fun, accessible quiz book and i don't
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remember specifically if and bradstreet is included but i certainly am familiar with her and i asked quick quizes, four five questions about authors books, first title. in one respect i have done a book along those lines but to the bigger point, we often teach history in one hour and english literature in another hour and obviously i believe all these subjects are best learned when we put the mall together so a tour that puts together the history and literature in parts of new england, you can't discuss one without the hour, i can you discuss new england and not discuss henry david thoreau and walden and emerson? there was no separation between history and literature and politics in the nineteenth century so i applaud the
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efforts. >> host: jeff in sydney, montana you are on with author kenneth davis. >> listening to all these phone calls i got sidetracked. a couple comments. your dad's experience or the experience you had about history probably wouldn't be possible today because the mistake of political correctness and the shift that we see with our school teachers being considered a voting block for one party has changed all that experience for a lot of us. the question that i have for you is do you see in the text of a lot of history books today in schools a shift that condemns productive people and doesn't take into account the difference in sensitivities' through the ages? wonder if you felt there is an agenda of.
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we are seeing little communities, a lot of attention paid to the muslim culture of which i didn't think we had any, but i made a little trip to eastern north dakota and i see muslims from northern africa are being imported by the administration and in cooperation with social services out of north dakota of these people are totally -- provide nothing to the community except diversity which is supposed to be their calling card. >> guest: i have no knowledge of this like cannot comment. to the beginning, and i can speak a little more specifically. even though i do not spend my time reading schoolbooks there's
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a considerable body of literature and people like diane ravage and others who look at what is being tossed in schoolbooks. my primary concern is not about political correctness of one group as opposed to the other but about making sure that kids are absolutely learning history and not being turned off of it and want to make one other comment from personal experience. i do not see the teachers i deal with on an almost daily basis, generally through skype and also on twitter, there are collections of teachers who are devoted to the subjects they are teaching through things called social studies chats for english shaft. i have been to a group -- groups of teachers who get together and not for political reasons but at their own expense to share
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resources, to share ideas for improving their classroom. i understand the politicization of teachers and teachers are seen as a block. i can only speak to the fact that i speak and work with a great many teachers whose principal concern is not politics but the kids who are sitting in their classrooms. >> host: joe in washington pennsylvania. >> big fan. i live quite close to fort necessity. my question, i probably have a thousand. is you are writing about the standardized testing. it would be like we were waiting the house every day as opposed to feeding them.
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back to my question. they were men of their times. when you hear about the controversial things with columbus and jefferson and in regards of other people lot of times you hear the statement, they were men of their times, i enjoy talking with you, and listen to your answer. thank you very much. >> i think i like that weighing the cattle line instead of feeding them. i will probably borrow with somewhere. seriously, thank you for being a teacher. i don't think there's a more important job and in many ways a less valued job in our country and i wish that could change. to the point about men of their times, is a really interesting one and an important one that i sternly contended with in writing about these figures, particularly the founding fathers as we like to call them,
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especially in relationship to slavery and i will bring in around to that because it has such an impact on the early history of the presidency and is one of those untold stories we don't talk about. we know of course at george washington had slaves and thomas jefferson kept slaves. they talked about liberty, equality, there were fighting for freedom but they were going back to plantations utterly dependent upon human beings that they alone. that is the reality. washington and jefferson were both uncomfortable with slavery, they thought it would end, they were men of their times but let's look once again to this thing we have been tiptoeing about, the alert for college. when the idea of collectors was introduced it was a compromise between election by the people on one hand which the framers of the constitution thought was one step away from mob rule and election by the legislature, the congress choosing the president.
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these were the two choices they came up with at first as they were debating the presidency. that produces compromise, we won't have the people do, we won't have the legislature do, we will have elected is do it. they will be wise enough and have time and educated and inform the nafta make a great decision. that is what it meant in theory. who were the electors? that would be left up to the states. how many of them? that is the key question they had to confront because it went back to that -- remember your physics, how many people were going to be in the congress and of course that would determine how many electors you have. the key issue was who were you going to count and were you going to count nearly 1 million people held in servitude to, and that was the real sticking point, finally settled by a compromise of counting slaves as
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three fifth of a person for determining representation in congress which also gave us the number of electrons each state had. this is why four of the first five presidents are slaveholders from virginia and five of the first seven presidents are slaveholders, most of the presidents before the civil war were either slaveholders themselves or sympathetic to the slave holding cause. this was the essence in many ways of what's wave power wind, what it meant before the civil war. most of the chief justices of the supreme court slaveholders before the civil war. most of the speakers of the house were slaveholders, most of the senate majority leaders were slaveholders so this was built into the system from the beginning and the key part of the political power being debated in this great run up. george washington of course is the elected. we know he was a slave holder. i am sure you heard he had
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misgivings about slavery, treated as slaves well but he did bring them to new york when he was inaugurated and he did take them to philadelphia when philadelphia became the capital and in pennsylvania there was an interesting law. if a slave was in the state for six months he was emancipated. washington had to move his slaves back-and-forth between mount vernon and philadelphia to keep them from being emancipated even though this was absolutely against the letter of the pennsylvania state law. that is the side of the story we often don't tell. a man of his times, absolutely. during the revolution when he takes command of the continental army goes up to boston, sees that there are black men with guns and knows he is not going to be able to sell this to his brethren in south carolina and georgia. he stops that. eventually changes his mind when
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he needed more bodies in his army. we always have to weigh these things. they are not simple black-and-white issues. yes he was a man of his times, he was a man who was part of a society that was utterly dependent upon slavery and he knew he was not going to change the minds of his fellow slaveholders. we point to these founding fathers and genuinely with admiration, but this was clearly where they did not see the great conflagration that "don't know much about literature: what you need to know but never learned about great books and authors" >> host: kenneth davis is our guest. every offer we have on in depth we ask some questions of them and we are going to show use those now. we have an hour-and-a-half left in our program and we will be right back with your phone calls.
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>> host: we are live with kenneth davis, author and historian in new york city, this is booktv on c-span2. you say when it comes to your career, you're writing career you give a lot of the credit to joanne davis, and -- >> guest: that would be my wife. she doesn't like me to tell this story but she is going to have to suffer me this one because people are interested in how i became a writer. about half way through college i was a classic liberal arts kid, 5 would be a teacher as i mentioned earlier in the interview, didn't know what i was doing, decided to drop out of college for a while and work in a bookstore and i did go to work in a bookstore. i was a great reader. i have always been a reader since childhood as i mentioned earlier, going to the library, very interested in history but
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the notion that i could be a writer just never occurred to me, the notion that i could be an astronaut or a rocket scientist or a neurosurgeon had never occurred to me. i did think i might be a teacher. i was working in a bookstore and i remember very clearly the day this will allow work with read some of the stuff i had been riding in college, my class work and some stuff i had done for the college newspaper and she honestly said to me you are wasting your time, you should be writing to them. she was so smart by then married her. she encouraged me in my writing career. she -- i got my first assignment with her. casting about for a book project, she said to me you love american history. why don't you write about it? that is the beginning of don't know much about history.
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there was no grand scheme for a series of books, no scheme for a lifetime spent writing, very lucky, i won't say accident because lock is the residue of design, but it was my wife who encouraged my riding. had always been my first reader and my first editor and most demanding editor. for all my success i truly 0 to the woman behind the throne. >> host: an hour and 15 minutes left. if you want to talk to kenneth davis, "don't know much about...".com is is website. 53 at-380, 585-391 if you live in the mountain and pacific time zones. you can also contact us on social media,
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is our e-mail address, and booktv is our twitter handle and finally if you would like to make a comment. dug in oklahoma, thanks for holding. you are on with kenneth davis. >> thank you for your writing. quite an honor to speak with you. so much of what you said resonates with me personally, that is the excitement of learning, the unquenchable thirst of opening a book, learning something new and i thought i would give the way point of personal privilege. share with us in all your research and reading on nineteenth century american history, identify one or two people may be a new about, once you start reading about the water fascinating life and you felt compelled to read more and
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tell us about it. >> host: the first one that pops into my head is the first presidential candidate of the republican party, a man who was as famous as any man in america in the nineteenth century, now largely forgotten except we know his name from street signs in california, john c. fremont. what a fascinating story he was. his parents, his father was from canada, came to virginia and his parents in loped with his mother, whether he was born illegitimately or not is something of to question. he goes through wife and becomes an army surveyor, very brilliant young man and he becomes the pathfinder, the man who matched the way west from st. louis to
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california, three different experiences. he himself he looked at a certain point with his bride jessie benton who became jessie benton fremont and she was the daughter of the most powerful man in the senate, senator from missouri. they became america--if they had people magazine they would have been the kate middleton and prince of their time. they were handsome, dashing, beautiful, exciting, adventures and the extraordinary things together and separately. he has -- he is one that is a little over looked. the opening up of the west is largely due in part to the role played by john fremont and his wife jesse fremont. he then did as i mentioned become the first republican
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candidate for president in 1856, lost that election in part because he was accused of being born in canada. the first bursar controversy relates to john fremont because his parents, his father had come from canada, it was claimed he had been born in canada but this was is proven. of bigger issue and this is a fascinating one is he was accused of being catholic. this speaks to a whole period and american history when america was not a christian nation but a protestant nation and catholics were the most feared, despised and discriminated against group in america and so being called a catholic in 1856 was more than a can't. it conveyed that you were a dangerous person who was going to turn the country over to the pope. that is what people believed. was part of the nature of the
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know nothing party. catholicism and immigration were very tightly knit together and i tell the story of fremont and his wife in one of my books because i do think he is one of the forgotten, overlooked characters of that period and there are so many aspects that come together. he was an early abolitionists and that was one of his appeals to the republican party in the civil war. he got in trouble because he actually tried to emancipate the slaves in his military district before abraham lincoln was ready for that and lincoln did dismiss him. >> host: at 20 first anniversary edition has been -- there is a lot there, aaron burr and alexander hamilton, you also cover the topic of the whigs
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span and the republican party. what happened to the whig party? >> is interesting to see the evolution of how politics and political parties over this 225 year period since the presidency was invented, because when we look back at it, the founders starting with george washington were opposed to parties. they wrote about it. washington gives his farewell address and says be aware of the baneful affects of party or faction as they sometimes called them. james madison had written against party in the federalist papers. one of his arguments for the ratification of the constitution. you have these men talking about how dangerous parties are and they tended to think of parties more on regional and religious lines as opposed to philosophical lines at that point but they did not see this
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coming as the party emerged but in 1796 the lines are clearly drawn in the sand as i mentioned earlier in the interview, john adams and hamilton, very shaky allies here in the federalist party, thomas jefferson leading what would become the democratic republicans, they later, at the democrats became so dominant that by the time john adams's friend john quincy adams becomes president he is a democrat, completely left the federalist fold, the federalist party is essentially dead. what happened was the rise of andrew jackson and the democratic party, much more as we know it today and it became for a little while it was a single party exit there were those in the country who were really opposed to jackson and this became the essence of the whig party. it was so much a political party as it was an anti jackson party
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and the whigs came along and henry clay, if we want to talk about forgotten people from the nineteenth century henry clay is not so much forgotten but overlooked because he did never become president. the most prominent american of his time who didn't become president and since we are on the subject of elections and scandal there was a pamphlet produced when henry clay was running against james polk that said 21 reasons why henry clay should not be elected. reason number 2 was he spends his days at the gaming tables and his nights at the brothel. anyone who still thinks it was nicer and more polite and more gentlemanly back then can just look at the 21 reasons why henry clay was not elected so they emerge as an anti jackson party, as the slavery issue increases,
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the whigs break down eventually, merging into what later becomes the republican party founded in the early 1850s. >> host: mr. davis, thank you for showing teachers how to get kids excited about history but then the question, how did the authors of the constitution come to prohibit the awarding of titles? they could have made themselves dukes and her roles, made titles hereditary and enrich themselves and their families forever. they did not. it seems a particularly fine expression of principal. people call their little girls princesses, we get excited about british royalties of the impulse to have titles is just below the surface even today. >> host: an interesting question and one of those little bits of the constitution most americans have never read for themselves but you are absolutely right.
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it goes back to the sensibility that was going into the authorship and drafting of the constitution. we spoke about it much earlier in the interview just to recap briefly. those men who gathered in philadelphia in 1787, 11 years after the declaration was adopted, some were the same and most were not, they feared more than anything not marquee. they didn't like anything that reeked of british monarchs the including aristocratic titles. one of the reasons they said the age limit for a president at 35 was they felt that was an age at which someone would have to establish his own credentials. he couldn't just be his famous father's sun. john quincy adams and john adams had to contend with this problem even though they were the least monarchist of america's founding
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fathers. this was something these men cared about very deeply, they did not want the presidency to become an elected monarchy. they feared it more than anything else as they debated the powers of the presidency. one more point about this is george washington was celebrated by a group -- not to go too far into this, there was a society called the society of cincinnati, formed around groups of his former officers and washington was asked to be part of this group. he was very skittish about it. one of the reasons was your membership in this group would be passed from father to son and he felt that in itself was a problematic idea. the complication with that, small point, the society of cincinnati was meeting at the
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same time as the constitutional convention. washington had begged off of going to the society meeting because he did not want to give his real sanction but he still had to explain how he was going to go to the constitutional convention. sayre emily e. does and presides over and ultimately become the first president. >> host: ask mr. davis to talk about children's books please. >> i am not sure what the question is, but historically speaking the idea of children as we think about it today was so different for a lot american history in a very different context. only in the 1930s under franklin roosevelt, during the great depression and the first new deal reform, the fair labor act the child labor is finally
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outlawed in the late nineteenth century and well into the early 20th century children were workers and very often doing the most dangerous and dirty work but if we go back earlier in american history, certainly you think about famous children's books and the most famous of the mall we have alluded to is the book about george washington in which the cherry tree story sprout and grow as for 200 years. from a personal perspective, i think children's book far part of the educational environment that every home should be. we should have a tv and personal-computer and i know this is all changing with technology but i'm still a member of the generation that love save and prizes books and we certainly filled our house with books as our children were growing.
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one of the reasons i decided at a certain point to do some children's books which was a separate series in the don't know much about name but i felt making this subject fun, interesting, all live to children and being able to share it with parents was very crucial to having this conversation around the kitchen table. >> host: catherine, go ahead with your question or comment for kenneth davis. .. i'm really enjoying your dialogue. i'm going to be buying and reading my books. uncommon sight or thought of corba though is another great songwriter who influenced people's history. the second question is reading about, you know, the crossing of the delaware by washington and the attack on a british troops on christmas morning. it's usually referred to as a great moment of our history. your thoughts on it, would that
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be considered an act of terror now days? what does that say about the birth incarnation as a christian nation? i look forward to your answers. >> guest: interesting question. to the first one first, i'm sorry, peter, that was a long question and i lost track of the first part if you can refresh my memory. >> host: she was talking about orbit all. >> guest: how could i forget. gore the doll, rest in peace, recently departed was a wonderful novelist, a wonderful essayist and his theories of historical novels were enthralling to me, and reignited my interest in per as an historical character. that said, it is historical fiction in one always has to remember.
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i believe the historical fiction by the way is a great way to get interested in history included in my list of some favorite books is burr along with the killer angel and others that were influential to me. citing historical fiction is a group rate to get people thinking and asking questions about his jury. on the other hand, it is fiction and has to be treated accordingly. there are some wonderful biographies of her, including one that came out recently by a woman named nancy eisenberg. it's a splendid book and really changed my view of her. i have to go back to a story about her. i got interested in benedict arnold first because someone once asked me, why is there a statue of benedict on a booth and i didn't know the answer, but someone asked me question i can answer, i find out. there's a statue. he doesn't have his name but
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it's at the saratoga battlefield arnold was a great hero and the word before he became history's greatest traitor, at least american history. but then i discovered he went on this at venture through the wilds of maine in an attempt to attack a cadet at the orders of king. along with benedict arnold on that very, very unsuccessful in deadly church to remain in the winter of 1775 is a 19-year-old named aronberg, on the trip with two of them. could you imagine benedict arnold and aronberg traveling through the woods of maine together. that's why history to me is more fascinating than any novel. so just some thoughts on fiction and history. the real history is better than anything and anybody comes up with an action. to the second part of the question, now that i've answered
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that is less a second part of the question. forgive me. >> host: will move will move onto john and dublin, georgia. >> caller: mr. davis coming thank you so much. i'm also a high school u.s. history teacher and my concerns the issue of secession. i've always found it interesting that the issue is apparently an open question at the time of the civil war. new england and the west for certain secession before the south actually did it. is there anything in historical record of the federalist papers that addresses whether the state could withdraw from the union after they ratified the constitution? >> guest: certainly not to my knowledge in the federalist papers. i think that when you go back and look, they were talking about creating a more perfect union. so when one thinks about a perfect union, one does not think about it being divisible. of course this issue is not
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settled in a constitutional until after the civil war, a case that is not as famous as some supreme court decisions. i believe it's either texas versus white or white versus texas, related to some bombs held that the state of texas. and that, solomon chase who had been in the lincoln at and is now is now the chief justice breaks definitively that no constitutional right to secession exists in the state who left were actually men acting on their own. they were not the actual state leaving the union. so that the constitutional answer to that question. more to the point of the period before and maybe not to the civil war, this issue had come not for of course many times. there is a period briefly with some of the new england states had talked about secession. nothing ever came of it. it was relatively minor moment
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in american history, but people were talking about it. during andrew jackson's office and became much more of an issue between jackson and first as vice president, later senator, john calhoun. jackson had a famous moment says the union is indivisible. he said if someone can leave the union, the constitution is a rope of fantasy posted. so the founders in the sense of those who have become to duchenne weren't writing and talking about it, but there was plenty of discussion of it before the secession of the confederacy. another example is zachary taylor who was president briefly before his death. he also confronted the question because states are talking about that point he would personally lead the troops to hang anyone
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who would secede from the union. there were strong feelings on both sides, obviously before the civil war ended was ultimately what brought the nation to a catastrophic tragedy. >> host: the e-mails are piling up, so let's go through a couple before we go any further. this is from michael adler in seattle. where can we read more about the history of the establishment of the electoral college that mr. davis spoke about? his review of the subject was a revelation to know that real to study it more in depth. >> guest: i covered in some gaps in the new book, 71 and the whole evolution of the electoral college, words by the way that are not in the constitution. the framers spoke of electors.
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this is an idea that went back to the electors to choose the holy roman empire. the holy roman emperor, and later elect is in the college of cardinals. so that's what the two words come from, lectors in college. it does not enter the lot of the united states until 1845 when they statue because the college of electors. so this is doubtless in some detail and don't know much about the american president. there's also a a large, large information about this. a wonderful book i would recommend for anyone interested in this. is the book called -- let's see, how the constitution is a democratic or don't fumble in the title, but i'll come up with that in a moment. >> host: this is by e-mail,
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you are the readability of the average american is usually set at the expert level and the average american is presumed to be a reluctant reader. do you think your books actually have a broad impact on the general level of knowledge in our country? best question i was once a designer and a small historical union refers up eraser in eighth grade level dictum. >> guest: i never thought about the review model as my readers. i always have written in a style that i is conversational as this conversation is. i always try and think about writing as if i were speaking. i do feel that a flood of textbooks are written -- i mean, there is the jargon of the academy and textbooks are often written by one of the professors should be read by another set.
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so i would set myself aside from textbooks because i'm not writing for school audience. i have found over 20 years of doing this that the teachers latched on to my book because they did find kids responded to them. i can't speak in the sense of many educators talk about what the grade level or what reading level books are aimed at. i try to talk to people in the language standards and. this is certainly a question that is increasingly problematic for not only because of reading level, but because of pension stance. there is a piece of education last week that talked about the specific notion that technology because we are getting information in shorter and shorter bed is really changing the way the next generation thinks that processes information.
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i think that's a really, really big and important question and much bigger than the one i can answer personally. from my own is, i try and write and speak in a language i understand. i certainly refer to pop culture. i think those teachers who certainly have eighth-graders and ninth graders will tell you that you certainly can't ignore mass media and pop culture. if you don't know what the kids are talking about, you're not able to talk to them. that's part of the battle of course, speaking to people in a language they understand. >> host: kenneth davis, or you're a fan of wikipedia? >> guest: am i a fan of wikipedia? i'll tell you a short story because 10 years ago i did what it was. i was elated that are of the internet, being such a bookish fellow, but i was doing research for america's hidden history and i was researching and hutchins 10, a woman who i found her
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interest in. i grew up near the hutchinson river park when westchester county and really had never heard the name discussed in my school books. so i went to wikipedia, not understanding what it was at that time. i sat and hutchinson and her family were killed by him did. that part i knew to be pretty accurate. tenet said they were fed into the chipper, becoming the first sloppy joe's in american history. i thought that probably is right and that the point at which i learned to wikipedia was at that point written by anyone basically who had access to a laptop. it has changed since then i don't want to get too much into accuracy issues. it's certainly become much more scrupulous about forcing contributors to document what they say, but that's not always the case. so i talk about this a lot to students when i go into
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classrooms because it's the same rules that apply to any kind of research that you have to check sources, confirm sources, see what the sources for the information you've been given and take it from there. as i said, wikipedia has largely changed its rules, but it is still, for the most part, but by contributors and basically is that to the monitoring of people who aren't encyclopedia editors and the way the classic encyclopedias i grew up, encyclopaedia britannica where. i would say that is a cautionary tale. o-oscar you mentioned and hutchinson in american history. bushy popular in her day? we've all heard of her. who was she? swishy popular in her society? >> guest: depends on which side of society are speaking a
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beard should assert they not popular with the puritan fathers of the massachusetts bay colony. she had come in that great. 10 migration to transform the massachusetts bay colony in the decade after the arrival of the pilgrims first and the arrival of the puritan, john would drop. she began to speak and have meetings in her home in which she discussed the bible and some of the gifts we would call it interpretations right and wrong again some of the powers that he puritan sir what are the factors the woman saying these things but to her being put on trial. these are the same puritan fathers who had earlier put roger williams, another somewhat dissident creature on trial and
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banished him from the massachusetts state colony. hutchinson was also tried. she remarkably spoke in her own defense against the most powerful man on earth was based in massachusetts at that time and best of them by many accounts, but was also forced out of massachusetts. she went to neighboring rhode island and participated in the founding of that is a colony in the writing of this charter, which was the first colony to have a charter that calls for a freedom of religion in a sense. and it's roger williams who introduced the notion that there should be a hedge is a ration between church and state. >> host: sandy comiskey, a lahoma company been very patient. please go ahead with your question for author kenneth davis. >> caller: thank you are a match for taking my call.
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mr. davis, in your books, talking about history, how much indian history do you bring into your books whenever you read about the president's and their interaction and then they removed the tribes from their land? i am a descendent of john rawls and i've had the privilege in that latter years to visit their homes down in georgia in various as they are a learned a lot about my family history. another thing i would like to mention his whenever she was talking about literature, teachers had a great responsibility in teaching and i had a wonderful literature teacher that she could just bring shakespeare live and i really enjoyed literature quite
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a bit under her. and here's another suggestion. i like art. and i think that would be a good book to write on because there's various artists that i truly like and their life in background is very interesting. >> host: sandy, a lot of the table. mr. davis. >> guest: thank you for the call. it is such an important part of our history insert money are hidden history and particularly when it comes to the president come in the of native americans. this is that i mentioned at the beginning of our conversation, peter, that there were no native american stories in my school book passed the first thanksgiving. we saw the indians set down and
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then they kind of got forgot until maybe custer. so that's a big chunk of american history that got left out. one of the things i've tried to do not only don't do much about history, but all of my books is really address that tragic case of leaving these stories out of american history. at every step along the way, whether it was spanish, french, english and new england in virginia in particular, the clash of culture, the collision between native american culture in european culture was usually devastating and tragic. mostly because of disease, smallpox to which native americans had no natural immunity is come up with killers that wiped out tens of millions of people. was one of the reasons for the pilgrims landed in what they
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would later call plena, it's an abandoned village because smallpox had eradicated most of the population of new england. where did it come from? the fact is english and other europeans had been sailing in fishing and trading long before the pilgrims arrived and probably introduce many of these diseases that wiped out whole sections of the native american population. john winthrop actually talks about it, writes about it when he comes over with the puritans about how they surely must be the hand of god despite all these people out of new england, opening up the land for the puritans. in every successive generation, there are similar stories. the caller talks of course about eating in oklahoma, the forced migration, what we would call today ethnic cleansing of the
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tribe from the southeast, the five civilized tribes there an outcome of the creed, the cherokee. they were pushed west across the mississippi unmeritorious trail of tears begun under andrew jackson and continued by his successor, mark van buren. i write in this new book, "don't know much about the american presidents," about william henry harrison, who was known as thomas jefferson tamer because jefferson wanted to move, even though he wrote about civilizing native american tribes, he wanted to move them out and so some of his writing to william henry harrison are at odds with the more benign view of jefferson in dealing with native americans. so without going into each one of these episodes, i can say this is one area where i've tried to tell stories that have been left out of the
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schoolbooks. the last i will conclude with it in my book, a nation rising, you talk about the precourt. most people have never heard of it were fought during the war of 1812 of conflict within the larger conflict between andrew jackson in the creek indians of the southeast. a very, very brutal war that really made andrew jackson famous before the battle of new orleans in 1815. so you can't separate out the history of some of these president from the history of dealing with native americans. >> host: kenneth davis mentioned some of his books, but he started writing an publishing in 1984 in his first was to be a culture, the paper backing of america. and then they don't know much series started in history came out in 1990, a bestseller.
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don't know much about geography 1992. don't know much about civil war 1996. don't know much about the bible 1999. don't do much about the universe 2001. mythology 2005. don't do much about anything came out in 07. and don't do much about anything else cannot in 2008. two bucks off the don't know much series include america's hidden history in 2009 and a nation rising 2010. and this latest, hot off the presses, "don't know much about the american presidents" just came out in 2012. we have a little less than 40 minutes last in this month's in-depth. 202 is the area code. 585-3890 in the eastern and central time zones. 585-3891 in the not been and we will put up the social media addresses as well. you can contact us by
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twitter@book tedious or twitter handle. face as their facebook address. like us on facebook and you can go see it posted there. you'll make a comment. is our e-mail address. this facebook comment comes in from zane abdulla. here mr. davis coming apparently spent 10 years honing your craft as a popular historian. i'm an anthropologist and professor of religion writing a new book on 1970s american religious history. how would you compare in formal learning that the more academic approach to learning and writing about history? in other words, do you think you or anyone misses anything in their training as a nontraditional historian. thank you, zane abdulla. >> guest: i've never been asked before, so i've never thought about it. first of all i would say, sure,
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the answer has to be yes. obviously with specific training in certain areas, one would have more degrees of expertise. on the other hand, i think of myself as a lifelong learner as many of my readers do. i think my curiosity about the sub jacks lead me to explore them in ways that might not be traditionally part of the academy. i think again coming back to the basic idea that we have detected people in a language they understand and still have any respect for the academy and the academic and that is why i do point to so many more what i would describe as academic historians. i don't want to say readme and don't read them. i want to say stop reading me and i'll point you in the right direction if you're interested in continuing this.
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certainly when it comes to the bible, for instance in terms of religion, what i've written about the bible is meant to be a very general overview for the vast majority of people who share that the bible is important, say they read it, but have never read it for themselves. but i've tried to do is really provide i guess you could call it 101 type introduction for the general reader come but certainly expressing my ad duration and understanding that many more in-depth approach is to allow the subjects are available. and as i said several times, i try to point people in that direction when i can. >> host: christin porcher miss new york, go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: yes, good afternoon, gentlemen. i'm a new york city firefighter and a history major at the state university of new york, so first let me say what a pleasure it was to get home after weeks of battling hurricane cindy and find your program on this
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afternoon. my comment in question, right now i'm enrolled in a class about colonial america and were studying the conspiracy trials at 1741 and the plot, which was to suppose that plot to bring the city of new york and handed over to the spanish. i am curious if mr. davis knew about this event. if he did, why he didn't write about it in his book, don't know much about history. and if he knows about it, maybe he could share information with the listeners. >> host: chris, before we get an answer from kenneth davis, what have you learned about this? is this the first time you've heard about it? >> caller: yes, 42 years old, learning about it this semester. it's the most shocking thing i'd ever heard about this thing mitterand comparing it to the salem witch trial, which occurred 50 years prior and then comparing those two events.
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it seems american know more about the lump in its history instead of the conspiracy trial, which happened in new york city. >> host: thank you, sir. >> guest: is a fair point and i don't know if the caller -- first of all, i want to thank him from the bottom of my heart as a new yorker. we've seen what the firemen and policemen and nurses and medical personnel and on the first responders are doing, so i really thank you for your service and i value it and what you do is so important, so thank you and maybe not. second, am not sure what edition nissan because they certainly discuss the new york uprising in several of my books, especially, he may not be aware of the fact that the museum of the city of new york -- i'm sorry, the new york historical society several years ago at a large exhibit about this subject and at the
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time, it was eye-opening for me. it was one of those areas that one tries to put everything into a book that says everything you need to know, but obviously their space limitation, so it's certainly referred to in other recent editions of the book. there's a wonderful book written by the harvard historian about that old. and i would highly recommend that. i think i included it in my list of must-read books. so it is a question that i have dealt with in several editions of my book and in fact mentioned also in terms of the most recent book as well. so it may have been not included in an earlier edition. i believe it is something i talk about, but this falls completely into the area of the stories textbooks leave outcome of the schoolbooks it out. i grew up in new york. i did not know about this great
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so-called slave conspiracy. i also didn't know because we were taught that slaves were down south until much later in my education at new york had more slaves than most of the southern states with a few exceptions that slavery was very, very well in deeply established in the new york state and new york city. >> host: mary in san jose, california, you are on booktv on c-span 2. >> host: thank you for taking my call. i try to watch books to be as much as i can and today is really interesting to me. my question is very simple. i really don't like reading books that much. i read magazine articles because they're short and sweet and to the point. given that information, i'm sure i'm not the only person in this situation. could you recommend one or two books that i should read that
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you've written? 's thank you so much. >> guest: that's like asking me to choose between my children. i love them all. by your question speaks very much to the style in which i write and it's not a deliberate thing, just the way that i write. not to say that i've reduced this to sound thing that simplistic or simple, but in asking questions, a basic question and try to answer it in a few paragraphs in some cases or a few short pages, i think it is much more the style perhaps that you're talking about, or of a journalistic or magazine style. ..
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>> host: i found your discussion of slavery quite interesting, especially about putting main and issues into the historical context. i would like to hear your opinion on the women in our history, the whole sector of the population completely ignored in fact, those citizens and the struggle over women's rights. >> guest: wow. how much time do we have? this is an extra very question and certainly, again, seeks to -- thank you for it, melissa, as well -- speaks again to the notion we have touched on so many times in this conversation, peter. of the stories i grew up with got the textbooks i grew up with did not have any stories of
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women. certainly i have tried to address that and some cases in all my books in looking at that contribution of half of the society. one cannot learn about john adams, for instance, the second president, the colossus of independence, as he was called, without talking about his relationship with his extraordinary wife, abigail, depicted on television now and certainly in many other books. she was not a formally educated person in the sense of going to schools and college but had a native weight with a great -- was a great reader. that is one of the things that brought them together, their love of literature. and their letters to each other, over a long courses of political life, often spent apart, a part of the american history, and that is why i try and include
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the voice of people like that. when i wrote about the civil war , i wrote about the young woman who goes off. a camp follower, a word that has a lot of connotations over history. she follows her husband to the battle of shiloh as some women did or pet bird landing, as it was known. she is pressed into service as a battlefield errors, no training in what is essentially a hospital tent where the doctors walked down, cut off one arm or leg injury on a pile and moved on to the next. she is, of course, one drink issue will see her husband. and when you see history in hear it in the voices of people like that, women like that in this case, it becomes up very different and, i think, magical thing. so the truth is that there has been an explosion in scholarship about women in american history since the 1970's.
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one can certainly read much more about women in history now than they could in my textbooks when i was growing up. that is unnecessary and long overdue corrective. obviously the whole nature of politics and society has changed so much, but going back and looking at the fact that these women had so many women had crucial roles that were overlooked is something i have tried to do. >> host: and in an nation rising, untold tales of flawed founders, fallen heroes, and forgot and fighters from america's history of the right to my have learned that telling the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth about the american past is an irritant to some people. i have been accused of tearing down our heroes. >> guest: if they're is a question in there, not sure what it is, peter. yes, this is something that is less true now than i, i suppose, it was a while ago. it certainly speaks to the
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mentality that the founding fathers were car and -- carved in stone, chiseled out to the side of mount rushmore. they were perfect and unflawed in their character. that is the way american history was presented for much of the first, hundred and 50, 200 years of our history. it has changed a great deal since the 1960's and 70's. revisionism has gotten a bad name. certainly people like howard zinn came along and start to write and talk about the people's history of the united states and give a very different perspective. and all that is a necessary corrective. i think that what i do in telling the truth about george washington, for instance, and what he did and his relationships with slaves and that he was a person who had an ambition and an ego and a personality and was not this unflawed marble figure that he
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was presented for so long makes him a lot more interesting. i think if we make these historical figures more interesting people will read about them and pay attention and say, yeah, i never heard that in school, but that's really interesting. that makes them more real and live and human to make. >> host: our phone numbers are a little different than normal. we divided them by region. so if you live in the east and central time zones, (202)585-3890. that is the number for you to dial if you live in the mountain and pacific time zones, (202)585-3891. we will put those on screen for you. we take this call from arthur in hollywood florida. hi, arthur. >> caller: good afternoon. i am an attorney in south florida who is passionate about history. basically, you talk about secession before, but i would just like to address it in another question about the civil war from a different perspective
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was there any pressure on lincoln to let the south recede -- secede, the overwhelming vote of the south. that is one. secondly, in -- you talk to the social media, in today's media world with the visual things on television, the use think they can sustain the 4-year pro civil war today if the people see the pictures of the carnage that happened? >> guest: both interesting questions, and i will try to address them both as quickly as i can, and thank you for the call. first of all, the question of letting the south go. it was a very widely circulated idea, perhaps the most prominently by a man named horace greeley who most of us know because he is the one who said, go west, young man. he was actually one of the most influential newspaper editors of his time. a very, very staunch
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abolitionist, felt that lincoln was much too moderate on the question of abolition, and he had actually argued for this. the idea was, however, and this is certainly lincolns belief. if this were to happen it would be the end of the nation, and he could not allow it to happen because it would not just be that there would be one little nation down there and one, this would so weaken the nation, that it would be very, very prone to of foreign involvement, the british were still in canada, obviously. there were certainly foreign threats that are weakened and divided united states would have been prone to. on to the second question, which is about social media and lincoln. first of all, there was plenty of social media in 1861-1865
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because it was the era in which mass communications was available. the telegraph, the railroad, the newspaper or all becoming much more prevalent. many more americans were littered and reading newspapers, so people were seeing and hearing about the carnage of the war every single day. the telegraph offices would be filled with the casualty report. the other thing that changed very, very radically was that this was also the first american war that was photographed, and people were seeing photographs of the carnage. the new york times in a very, very famous review of mathew brady studio putting up a display of war scenes said that the photograph had brought the
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war into living rooms. so i think that certainly wasn't as prevalent as we have media today, but for the first time in american history, certainly, everyone was fully, fully cognizant of how brutal this war was, and it is hard to say and speculate about whether it would be different if there were more media. certainly the vietnam war, the so-called living-room war, the media attention to that change americans' views of it, but i think that the american people were very aware, and lincoln had to be really combat the view of him as a butcher and a murderer. you know, he is generated no, but not during the war. in 1862 he did not think he would be reelected because of the tremendous casualties and because the war was not the one wall. >> host: well, brian in tulsa, okla., since this e-mail to you,
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mr. davis. when a president is not able to prevent or avoid war, why should he be admired and put on the list of great presidents? shared avoiding preventing bloodshed and more be the most important criteria in choosing a president to be on the great presidents list? >> guest: that is a really interesting question, and i'm going to turn it around a little bit to say that certainly presidents have to be judged most highly and most demanding lee based on taking the nation into war. that being said, it gets into a much bigger question of which wars are preventable, avoidable, or justifiable. the civil war certainly could have been prevented if there had been much, much stronger leaders, much earlier in american history. by the time that lincoln is on the scene, this is an inevitability that he is not
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going to be able to prevent. lincoln, of course, comes into office saying, we do not what -- he says, into your hands my dissatisfied trencherman. he is putting it on the doorstep of the seceding states. later in the war he says, if i could end this war by freeing all the slaves, i would. effective ended by freeing of slaves i would in answer to horace greeley in particular. so i think that it is a really interesting question, but you really did have to examine what were your talking about and how far back you have to go to prevent. by the time lincoln is inaugurated its really already too late to prevent the war in many respects. other than to accept the secession of the seven states, the confederate states, which he was not willing to do. i think one could certainly point to world war two as a
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question of not really in avoidable or preventable war after the bombing of pearl harbor and certainly franklin d. roosevelt wanted to become a much more proactive in stopping the german threat of 41941. there are certainly other cases of far more avoidable and preventable and unjustified wars in our history going back to the war of 1812, the first declared war in american history by james madison, and this was a war that could have been prevented just because there wasn't adequate communication between washington and london. it took too long for the negotiations to go back and forth. so those are the questions that sometimes come into this. it is a wonderful question. thank you. i hope i answered it. >> host: about 15 minutes left with our guest this month. ron in riverside, illinois.
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it's your turn. please go ahead. >> caller: yes. i have to say, i stumbled monday by let today. i normally would be watching the chicago bears' camp, but i have been staying with this program for the last couple hours now. >> host: the bears are way ahead. you need to worry. >> thank you for that update. i was going to say, i did kate's h. w. kranz lecture yesterday on ulysses grant's. and, cap the tv channel on the same network. gramm kind of concurs of what you're saying, how that if we did not fight the civil war when we did we probably would be still fighting more wars between the broken up country at the time. you know, grant being also on the same page with lincoln knew that it would be an all-out war. there could really be no compromise after the war broke out. i was amazed, especially with spielberg coming in with the movie about lincoln. lincoln really is still kind of a misunderstood man.
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and don't know if it's because of the sanitized versions we get from grammar school through high school. but lincoln really is such an inspirational story. this man basically was self-taught. he didn't have any formal education compared to, you know, most of the scholars and politicians of today. this was a guy promoting his education early, you know, promoting his reading, you know, by fireside. this man learned history on his own, and i still think it is a story. an updated movie. henry fonda played lincoln in the past. but this is an ongoing story. i also agree that there is one of the most fascinating of all time. i wish they would make a movie, you know, of aaron burr and alexander hamilton and the relationship with thomas jefferson. there was a lot of intrigue going on at that point in history. john adams, of course. but thank you. have never read any of your
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books, but i can tell you, starting with tomorrow, i will be running out to the bookstore to purchase some. thank you very much. >> thank you very much for the call. just a few quick points. i haven't read hw brands new book on grant. it's one of the problems, of course, the new books coming out. there are two new books on jefferson, new book i grant. it's a storm of scholarship by some very great writers. and mr. branson is a historian i admire greatly. i don't know him, but i have read many of his books. he is a wonderful historian who is also wonderful storyteller. his second point, lincoln and education, absolutely true. this is one part of the lincoln legend and myth that is not manufactured. a life of an extreme difficulty, extreme poverty, at nine years
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of his mother dies of what was called the milk sickness. you got it from drinking milk that came from cows that had eaten a poisonous weeds. jerry typical among pioneer settlers. he, at nine years old, has to help build her coffin and then drag it to be buried. part of his childhood. and then, indeed, his stepfather was not well educated, insisted that they read and read and read, and he loved to read very, very minimal education, but that is a story that is repeated many times i found in looking steadily at the 19th century presidents, when education was not available in compulsory, even a man like millard fillmore, who we don't really prize very highly as a president, have very similar story. at a very early age, born in tremendous poverty. he was basically sold into indentured servitude, one step away from slavery, and he learns
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how to read on his own, eventually goes back to school where he meets a young woman who is a schoolteacher. she helps him learn to read. he marries her. and if he had been a better president we could celebrate millard fillmore's life the way we do lincolns. it wasn't one of these -- it was one of these rights to riches stories. abigail fillmore, by the way, created the first white house library. viola debt to her. she was the first first lady who had a profession. she was a schoolteacher. back to facebook. >> host:, luigi says in this post. i am an amateur astronomer. i lament the encroaching white pollution in our cities that prevents most of us, especially children, from enjoying the stars in the milky way. could you speak about your book, don't know much about the universe, what prompted you to write this book? >> guest: thank-you for the
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question. i share that feeling so strongly because i even write about it in don't know much about the universe. the idea that the greeks or any of the other early civilizations and societies could look at the sky and see these pictures, first of all, and then start to figure out the place, our place in this vast universe is got to me, one of the extra their achievements of the human spirit and the note is absolutely right. in new york, for instance, you rarely see a start. it's a very rare night the you see a star. sometimes i spend time in the southern vermont where there is less light pollution and on one of those nights it's clear when you can see the milky way, and is remarkable, and we still are seeing only a small piece of white can be seen when there is truly none of that light pollution.
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i'd -- i rode i don't know much about the universe in part because i grew up loving stories of mythology and the bible and loving science fiction, and i wanted to bring those pieces together. when you write about the bible and you talk about the biblical ideas of creation and how mankind has seen creation through history, then i think it is appropriate to try and bring in to bear the scientific answers as well, and i was also a child of the apollo era. i was, you know, 14 years old, 15 years old when neil armstrong landed on the mend. i was a child of john f. kennedy promising that we would go to the moon, and so this was very much part of my upbringing, and i wanted to up, again, share my enthusiasm for a subject that is why, when misunderstood.
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this is -- >> host: this is from it terry jonathan more in sumter, south carolina. mr. davis mentioned, don't know much song was the inspiration for his book series title. when a phrase is already used in the media, how did the permissions and royalties work when a later person uses the same phrase to back. >> guest: i am not a copyright or a legal expert in this area, so i really prefer not to answer that. it is a very troubling and -- i shouldn't say troubling. it is an area i have no expertise in, so i defer to other authorities on that. >> host: your website is, don't know much about. >> guest: i don't know much. know about. don't know much. >> host: okay. ginnie in rocky mountain, north carolina, please go ahead with
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your question for kenneth davis. >> caller: thank you so much. i want to kind of bring it back around presidentially. you mentioned earlier the electoral college. and that it was later added. i think you said 1845 by statute. was that correct? >> guest: i specifically said the founders in the constitution, the framers of the constitution called them electors. the word electorial was never used in the constitution. it was first used in any kind of law in 1845, but the idea of the electors goes back to the original constitution in 1787. >> caller: so if you don't mind my asking, you know, we are brought up what to vote. the election is coming up. one-person, one-vote. how do you feel about the electoral college and all
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voting? do you recall that the name of the book that you were thinking of earlier? [laughter] >> guest: i have not recall that yet, but i will try and do it now because a slipped my mind, actually. on to this question of the electoral college. just to clarify here, this was, as i mentioned earlier in the interview or earlier in the program, a compromise. when there were framing the constitution between those who wanted direct election by the people. this was an idea that was feared by many. the framers of the constitution he thought that the people, as roger sherman of connecticut actually said, the people are too easily misled. to libel to be misled. they were afraid also of the fact that people in massachusetts or new hampshire, how could they possibly know the candidate from virginia or carolina? so there were practical aspects
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of it, but it was much more the fundamental belief that pure democracy was not what they were interested in. they were students of the pump -- republican government. on the other hand was the idea that the legislature, the congress should pick the president. that led some people to say, if we go that way, it will just lead to a ball and factions and secret deals. they thought then that the president would be too much in the control of congress. they wanted a separation of powers. that was such a key, driving force for these men. so they came up with this compromise of electors, and they did not really know who they should be or how they should be chosen. they specifically said, they can't be members of congress or people who profit from the government in any way. and so they left that up to the state, how they would be chosen. some of the states chose direct election of the electors, some states chose the election of directors or selection of
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lectures by the legislature. this was truly left up to the states at that time. no, as time has gone by, obviously, and the country has grown, many of those reasons, even if they were practical and made sense in 1787 no longer exist. there is no reason that anybody in any part of this country can know who the candidates are. that is one reason. and specifically to the point that you made, the notion of one-man, one-vote, that never applied to presidential elections because the allocation of electors is based on congressional representation and not just on population. that is a crucial distinction to make. i personally think that the electoral college has outlived its usefulness, if it ever had a practical reason in the first place. many people also point to the idea that a few large states would overwhelm the smaller
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states. i think that because of technology and communications, that idea is largely archaic as well. on the other hand, i don't think we are going to get rid of the electoral college because it require a constitutional amendment which would require a large majority in congress and a large majority of states to amend the constitution, and i don't see that happening. there is a piece of legislation that is currently going around, in which a state can pledge that it will give its elected to the winner of the popular vote. obviously for that to work, and estates would have to assign not to get to the 270 number, and we are a long way from that yet. i don't see any change, and the likelihood that we have either a tie in the electoral college again or a popular winter verses an electoral college water is still very, very likely in this very divided country. >> host: and in don't know much about the american
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presidents, kenneth c. davis writes on page 628, and yet the electoral college, this archaic relic of a hot philadelphia summer, clearly designed with slavery factored into its logic remains alive. today it equals 538 votes to of 445 members of the house and 100 members of the senate plus three el toro votes for the district. and promises of reform or a constitutional amendment to do away with the electoral college have always met with serious resistance, especially from states and politicians who benefit from the system and attempt to amend the constitution and abolish the electoral college, replacing it with direct election of the president was killed in the senate in 1979, but the issue rears its head every four years when people look around and wonder why america needs this antiquated contraption. and, unfortunately, i was looking in here for the name of the book.
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two people have no ask you. what about posting that on your website? >> if you don't mind my looking i can look in -- i think i have my book right here. perhaps i can come up with it. i believe it is called, how democratic is the american constitution? the author is a yale scholar, and i think, you know, i am under tv lights for too long. my brain is not coming up as something of a measly much better producing. >> host: okay. we are almost out of time anyway. if i give you 30 seconds to answer this question, and that's not very fair. there was an e-mail here that i wanted to finish with. and unfortunately, no i have put it under one of your books. i haven't read here. this is from allison in norman, oklahoma. when i was in elementary school
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